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Front Page » April 15, 2014 » Scene » Historical Society learns of John C. Fremont
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Historical Society learns of John C. Fremont

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The monthly Emery County Historical Society met at the San Rafael Museum to hear Wade Allinson give a report on his research into John Charles Fremont and his expeditions to the west. President Susanne Anderson opened the meeting with two members giving the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. Susanne then introduced Kay Jensen and his daughter Aretha Sherman from Cleveland who were providing a brief entertainment. Aretha played the violin while Kay played the guitar and sang a Western ballad, "Blue Shadows On The Trail"

Ted Anderson a local artist displayed one of his paintings and told the history of this beautiful painting of the San Rafael Swell Mountains with the Mexican Mountain in the center and Indians riding horseback along a trail in the foreground. The painting will be hung in the San Rafael Museum. The name of the painting is "A Long Way To Santa Fe." Ted explained the painting represents the time when Black Hawk was raiding along the Old Spanish Trail.

Val Payne came forward and informed the group of the Kiosk planned at the Buckhorn Well site. He said the building and pump jack has been salvaged. A volunteer group is needed to put it together. Val was asking the group for volunteers that could lay blocks and mortar to build a replica of the old Buckhorn Well building.

Anderson announced that the April 26 meeting would take place on the desert at Goblin Valley Junction. The group will meet in Ferron Park at 9:30 a.m. Saturday April 26th and car pool to Goblin Valley Junction. At noon the kiosk about Goblin Valley and Fremont's expeditions in Utah will be observed and discussed. Wade Allinson is to be the guest speaker. The Begay family will be cooking their famous Navajo Taco's for this event.

Historian Edward Geary introduced Wade Allinson a San Rafael Desert historian who came to tell the Society about the John C Fremont Expeditions of 1842 to 1854 in Emery County and other places.

Allinson began by telling of the John C. Fremont expedition in the winter of 1853 to 1854. This expedition was for Fremont to survey a railway route to the west and observe winter conditions in central Utah. Fremont's expeditionary force deviated from the Old Spanish Trail after crossing the Green River. There Fremont turned to the southwest toward Goblin Valley, passed by Wild Horse Butte, went through Cathedral Valley, up over the Thousand Lakes Mountain in deep snow and finally down to Parowan.

The list of early expeditions of those who went through the Emery County area are as follows: E. F. Beal July 1853, Gunnison October 1853, Fremont January 1854, W.D. Huntington October 1854, Elk Mountain Mission May 1855 and Loring July 1858. In his lifetime Fremont made several expeditions to the West. His first expedition was in 1842 when he made a survey of the Platt and Sweetwater Rivers. The second was during 1843 to survey the Great Salt Lake. This he did in a rubber raft with Kit Carson. While there Kit Carson carved a cross on the rocks of Fremont Island.

In 1845 Fremont got into a disagreement with a superior officer in the conquest of California and was taken under arrest to Fort Leavenworth by members of the Mormon Battalion.

Fremont again came west in 1848 and during that trek 10 members of his expeditionary force were frozen to death in the Rocky Mountains. Fremont's last expedition came in 1853 to 1854 to survey along the 38th parallel. He was supported with this expedition by his father in law Senator Benton. Because Fremont planned to write a book about this expedition he insisted that none of the party keep journals. He took along Carvalho a photographer to record photos images along the way. In Fremont's words, this final expedition was to fulfill a, "natural desire to do something in the finishing up of a great work in which I had so long been engaged."

The photographer Solomon Nunes Carvalho used a Daguerreotype camera to record scenes along the expeditionary trail. His daguerreotype camera used silver coated plates, several chemicals such as iodine, bromide and mercury. The plates were fragile and recorded a reverse or negative image. The muleteers in charge of the packing complained of many items and the weight.

Carvalho was a Sephardic Jew of Portuguese decent. He had lived in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Fremont while in New York recruited this gifted painter and daguerreotypist for the expedition. Carvalho had no experience in living out of doors and was a pioneer of travel photography. His task was to record the expedition using daguerreotype pictures of an unknown country. Though told not to by Fremont, Carvahlo secretly kept a diary of the trip.

Fremont was asked to survey if the Rocky Mountains able to be crossed in the winter. Fremont had previously failed in making a winter crossing of the Rocky Mountains.

The expedition with 22 members left Westport, Missouri in September 1853.

The condition of the expedition when they reached Green River in Utah was not good. Winter had set in with snow and ice. The men were bundled in coats and wrapped in blankets. Food supplies were exhausted and the horses and mules were walking skeletons. Many of the men were on foot walking on frozen feet.

After crossing the Green River the expedition made contact with some Green River Utes who subsisted on grass seed or Indian Rice grass.

Carvalho wrote, "this their only article of food was scarce and we could procure only a small supply. I parted everything out of my daguerreotype boxes that I did not require and several articles of necessary clothing, for about a quart of it. Fremont traded with the Utes for a lame horse that was slaughtered and fed to the party.

Carvalho later recorded images of Wild Horse Butte and Cathedral Valley. Even though Fremont would not allow personal journals to be kept, Fremont's record of this expedition has not surfaced. John Charles Fremont did write a book of the "Memoirs of My Life" but he did not include the last expedition in the book.

Robert Shlaer a daguerreotypist discovered several photos in Fremont's Memoirs were pictures taken during the fifth expedition by Carvahlo.

Traveling through the deep snow covered Thousand Lakes Mountain was very difficult. Carvahlo wrote of his experience, "I succeeded beyond my utmost expectations, on the summits of the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains, often standing up to my waist in snow, buffing, coating and mercurializing plates in the open air.

When things become extremely difficult for the expedition excess equipment including the daguerreotype is put in a cache. The photographic plates however are carried on by the expedition.

When the expedition reaches Rabbit Valley, Fremont decides the expedition is in trouble. Their food is running very short. Oliver Fuller dies from the elements. Fremont attempts to determine the location of the expedition believing that they had only one chance to hit Parowan and find help. Fremont using a sextant for nighttime calculations of longitude successfully navigates the starving expedition to Parowan.

The Mormons of Parowan provide shelter and food for Fremont and his men.

After recovering their strength the expedition splits. Fremont and several members continue on to California. Carvahlo is brought back to health by the people of Parowan and by March of 1854 he is in Salt Lake City visiting with Brigham Young. While in Salt Lake he paints a picture of Brigham Young. Later it is recorded that Carvalho traveled with Brigham Young to meet Chief Walker for the signing of the Chick Creek Treaty. After Carvalho is introduced to Chief Walker he paints one of the few portraits of Walker.

Carvalho then returns to Parowan and meets a man that is distraught because the man's six-year-old daughter had died. Carvalho sketches a picture of the girl on a page torn out of his sketchbook. It is impossible to describe the joy of the father when he was given the sketch of his daughter. The name of the girl was Mary Ann Harrison.

It is estimated that Carvalho took about 200 pictures. Fremont took those pictures to California and later back east. Most of those pictures were later destroyed in a warehouse fire. Of the pictures that survived there is one from Emery County and one from Wayne County.

Allinson at the end of this history announced that the Wild Horse Butte Historical Project will set up an Interpretive/panel kiosk April 24, at noon. The panel will include photos of John C. Fremont and Solomon Carvalho along with a brief history. This project is being sponsored by the Emery County Historical Society, the National Jewish Historical Preservation Society and by the Utah State Parks and Recreation Department.

Historical Society President Susanne Anderson thanked Wade Allinson for his very informative history of John Fremont and Emery County.

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